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Sports >  NCAA basketball

Pac-12 stock report: Donor help for WSU, Washington’s recruiting stall and smart football scheduling

March 4, 2021 Updated Thu., March 4, 2021 at 9:45 p.m.

By Jon Wilner Bay Area News Group

Commentary on Pac-12 developments on and off the field (and court) …

Rising: Washington State’s facility momentum

WSU’s indoor practice facility is older than some of WSU’s players. It’s an air-supported bubble, really, and it desperately needs replacing.

This week, the Cougars received a huge boost to that end.

The Taylor and Christianson families have agreed to a dollar-for-dollar matching challenge that will provide rocket fuel for the new practice space and for a new “Champions Complex,” designed to house support services, including academics and mental health, for all athletes.

The projects must be privately funded, with the practice facility alone expected to run in excess of $20 million.

Just as Oregon State’s stadium renovation matters to the entire conference.

Just as Arizona’s recently opened indoor practice facility matters.

Just as Utah’s ongoing stadium remodel matters.

The pride of Pac-12 infrastructure cannot just be USC’s McKay Center or Oregon’s latest indoor waterfall.

Every link in the chain must be as strong as possible for the collective to be as successful as possible.

WSU’s indoor practice bubble has been one of the weak links.

The Cougars have known that for years, and they just took a big step toward getting it fixed.

Falling: Washington recruiting

The Jimmy Lake era is off to a concerning start for the Husky faithful, at least for those who closely track recruiting.

In this space 51 weeks ago, we laid out the immense opportunity presented to Lake and his staff with three five-star prospects within a short drive of Husky Stadium.

How did that go?

So far, not so good.

The Huskies landed the quarterback, Sam Huard, but he’s a UW legacy.

They missed on the receiver, Emeka Egbuka, who’s headed to Ohio State.

And they’re in danger of missing the defensive lineman, J.T. Tuimoloau, who is believed to favor Ohio State and Alabama (if not Oregon and USC) over the Huskies.

Lake’s first full recruiting class, the class of 2021, was ranked sixth in the conference by 247Sports, although that’s partly due to the small numbers: UW signed just 15 prospects.

(On a per-player basis, the class is rated No. 3, behind only Oregon and USC.)

Now comes another concerning development for the followers of purple and gold – decommitments from two class of ’22 prospects: Sir Mells, a 280-pound defensive tackle from Nevada, and his teammate, Anthony Jones, a weakside end.

As is often the case, a variety of factors contributed to the decisions, including interest levels from other programs and coaching changes in Seattle.

As is also the case, only the end-game matters.

At this point, the end game on Montlake is stalled recruiting momentum while UW’s chief rivals for conference supremacy (USC and Oregon) are experiencing undeniable upticks.

Rising: The 2021 football schedule.

Scheduling is like officiating. When done right, it goes unnoticed; when done wrong, well, we’ve all seen both done wrong.

To many times over the years – far too many – the Pac-12 has misfired on some aspect of the conference schedule, making a difficult sport that much tougher by placing teams at a disadvantage.

Out of fairness, we’re sending a tip of the hat to San Francisco for the 2021 version, which is fair and balanced and should cause few, if any ripples next fall.

Put another way: The Pac-12 football schedule looks like something crafted by the SEC or Big Ten.

Yes, we can quibble over UCLA and Washington each playing back-to-back road games, with the second against a home team coming off a bye.

That’s suboptimal. And yet, if those two games constitute the worst of the master grid, the process was a success.

Our criticism over the years has often generated blowback from fans who believe the Hotline is advocating for the Pac-12 to protect the best teams, to favor the big boys against the little guys.

That reaction misses the nuance involved.

We have long believed the conference should treat everyone the same – that it “schedule for success,” as Stanford coach David Shaw describes it, for each team.

When a playoff contender loses a game it should never have assigned, however, the repercussions are far greater than if a scheduling whiff causes a mediocre team to finish 5-7 instead of 6-6.

Because our focus is often on the top of the conference, where the Pac-12’s national reputation is made (or obliterated), the narrative here is perceived as a clarion call to protect the best.

Really, the schedule should protect every team from being placed at a competitive disadvantage.

From our deep dive into the 2021 master grid, the schedule is clearly built for success up and down the divisions.

Rising: USC’s schedule

Rare are the instances in which USC fans are satisfied with the schedule.

But after examination of the schedule on Tuesday morning, Trojans faithful gave near-universal approval – and with good reason.

There are no structural obstacles to success: no Thursday games, no Friday games, no extended stretches without a bye, no road games against teams coming off a bye, no gauntlets prior to South Bend … no the-SEC-would-never-do-this-to-Alabamas.

That’s all well and good for the Trojans, but it also evokes Newton’s third law – the one about “equal and opposite” reactions.

Any spotlight taken off USC’s schedule must go somewhere, and that place is the field of play.

The only obstacles in 2021 will be those generated from within.

Falling: Stanford basketball

The Pac-12 began the basketball season hoping to send six or seven teams to the NCAA Tournament.

More recently, the sights were set on five bids. Now, with nine days until Selection Sunday, it appears the total could top out at four.

Stanford has faltered, which should not surprise anyone who has tracked the program’s lack of progress for the past 10-12 years.

Last week, the Cardinal lost forward Oscar da Silva to injury, got swept at home by the Oregon schools and seemingly plunged off the NCAA bubble.

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